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The talk around Tottenham Hotspur has long been focused on who will leave the club on a free transfer. Yet the North Londoners could pick up one of the most-coveted Bosmans around – Ryan Fraser.
Toby Alderweireld has inked a new contract to remain at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. But defensive partner and countryman Jan Vertonghen looks set to depart. The latest reports claim Real Betis, Valencia, Internazionale and Roma are all keen.
Spurs, though, could take advantage of the system to snare Fraser. The Scotland winger is expected to leave Bournemouth after seven years in favour of a new challenge.
The 26-year-old has achieved all he can in Dorset. This season has been his worst at the Vitality Stadium – by some distance. Just four assists and a single league goal are indicative of the Cherries' struggles. Fraser, though, is too good for another relegation scrap.
José Mourinho will have to persuade Fraser that Spurs are a better option than Crystal Palace. In fact, according to the Daily Express, the South Londoners lead the race to secure the wide man.
What neither club is paying for is the Fraser of 2019/20. The flying Scotsman has fallen some way short of his form of the previous season. In 2018/19, he bagged 14 assists – the second-most in the Premier League – and scored seven. Those performances saw him named Dorset Echo Player of the Year.
By his own admission, Fraser was not at his best before the new year. Linked with Spurs' North London rivals, Arsenal‘s interest peaked last summer. But a move never materialised and Fraser's form suffered.
Now the Gunners appear to have their eyes on Bayer Leverkusen star Moussa Diaby instead.
Fraser told BBC Radio Solent: “I think everyone knows by now what’s happening to be honest with you.
“It obviously affected me. The first four months of the season I wasn’t myself.
“I didn’t play for the team, I’m honest enough to admit that. I look back at it and I spoke to my family about it and it just looked bad on me and I didn’t help the team and I felt bad about it.”
In the same interview, a candid Fraser strongly hinted he would leave the club he joined from Aberdeen in 2013 when his contract expires.
“All I can really say is that, for the next six months, I'll give everything for the club,” he said.
“I've just talked about the last four months. That won't be happening again. I can give everything, I can track back, I can try to get my assists and goals to help the club get to where it should be in the Premier League.”
The drop-off in form has been stark. Those 14 assists came at a ratio of 0.4 per 90 last season – the eighth-highest return in the Premier League. Better still, Fraser out-performed his expected goals assisted (xA) ratio of 0.29 per 90.
Only one player could beat the tricky Scot's 0.79 Big Chances created (per 90) – Manchester City maestro Kevin De Bruyne. Good company to be keeping. On top of that, Fraser ranked fourth in the Premier League for crosses attempted (7.69) and completed (2.19).
At his best, the slippery winger is unplayable. With his low centre of gravity making it hard to knock him off the ball, Fraser is a full-back's nightmare. He can go to the byline or cross early and is equally comfortable driving inside.
The graphic above shows every chance Fraser created in 2018/19. While a high volume were from corners, the Aberdeen native made a habit of putting the ball in good areas for his Cherries team-mates. With higher-calibre forwards to supply, Fraser should thrive.
But the question is which would be the best move for Fraser? At 26, he will be committing the best years of his career to the next team he signs for, making this an important call.
On paper, signing for Spurs seems like the easy decision. An upwardly mobile club hoping to compete in the UEFA Champions League, with a world-class squad and manager. Serving up chances for Harry Kane sounds extremely appealing – more so than Christian Benteke and Jordan Ayew.
Yet Fraser would do well to consider how the two sides play. Palace are all about wing play. Roy Hodgson's 4-4-2 system incorporates two out-and-out wingers. As a result, 78 per cent of their possession is in the wide areas. Tottenham direct just 71 per cent of their traffic down the channels.
There's also likely to be a vacancy in one of the two wide positions this summer. Wilfried Zaha, like Fraser, has outgrown his surroundings at Selhurst Park and this is his last chance to secure a crack at the big time.
It's no coincidence, of course, that a huge 45 per cent of Palace's attacking play comes from down his side – the left. Fraser, along with Andros Townsend, would be charged with making up the shortfall.
It's also worth recognising the role Tottenham's wide players are expected to fulfil under Mourinho. The Portuguese is notorious for his defensive rigidity and not even creative players escape those expectations. There's also the small matter of the £26.7million Spurs spent on PSV Eindhoven winger Steven Bergwijn in January.
All that taken into account, it's far easier to see Fraser soaring once more with the Eagles.